Irish Roots

Rootsireland must change to survive


Like it or not, is the single most important Irish records website. Almost everyone researching their ancestors in 19th-century Ireland will have to use the site’s database of record transcripts – parish and local civil registration transcripts in particular.

It can be expensive, certainly but there is no doubt that the site has opened up Irish research to many for whom it used to be a closed book.

But it is also cumbersome, customer-unfriendly and old-fashioned.

The Irish Family History Foundation was set up to provide an umbrella body for the centres carrying out the transcriptions. These centres are extremely diverse, their only common feature a fierce independence.

The website design seems to revolve around the centres’ need for independence, in particular the need to pay each centre for every view of a transcript from that centre. The needs of researchers come a very, very distant second.

There are no fore-name variants – if you search for a “Patrick” and the record was transcribed as “Patt”, tough luck.

Details of the records transcribed, vital in understanding search results, are sometimes hard to follow: the listing for Co Down marriages includes “ Belfast (hm) 1906-1900”. What?

Above all, though, the entire site still consists entirely of transcripts. Being content with a transcript alone really means accepting someone else’s word on trust.

Rootsireland can survive the coming onslaught of competition from the likes of Ancestry, and I hope it does. But it has to modernise, to add record images – why not the National Library’s ready-made microfilm images? – and above all
become more of an access-